Photography by Andy Ryan
For David Stark, a day at the office can mean a lavish dinner party for hundreds of New York socialites and philanthropists at Lincoln Square; building a traffic-stopping sculpture on the steps of Fifth Avenue’s New York Public Library from 15,000 books; or hosting a picnic-style wedding for Martha Stewart’s nephew (same-sex nuptials at that).
“Instead of making something to hang on a wall, in a gallery, or in a museum, I’m making installations for happy occasions,” Stark says of his approach to party planning, a career he fell into by chance nearly 20 years ago, when he and a friend started making floral arrangements for restaurants and events to support their art careers. And while there’s an unmistakable whimsy to his work, Stark is keen on tackling each venture with a fresh perspective. “I’d hate it if people walked in and said, ‘Oh, yeah, David Stark is doing that thing again.’ ” he says. “I always ask myself how I can make it something that people have never experienced before.”
Earlier this year, Stark released The Art of the Party, a book of friendly pointers and anecdotes about his more elaborate gatherings. As the title suggests, beyond the physical effects and nitpicky logistics, Stark sees his role as that of a maestro brought on to help conduct a social symphony. “I want my events to look effortless, which may sound strange, seeing as some of them are so grand,” he says. “I want them to feel like they just happened miraculously.”